Friday, March 11, 2011

Among the many definitions of the often missused word concrete is the following:

concrete: adj. being or occurring in fact or actuality, having verified existence, not illusory

When the footings were poured for the house and the cement blocks laid, something on my land became satisfyingly concrete. I don't think I really believed there would be a house on my little hill until the day they poured the footings. Something about concrete in the ground says "no turning back". The house ceased to be illusory.

A couple years ago, dad and I laid the blocks for a barn roughly the size of Ellis Island.'s a small island...but it's a BIG barn! Standing at one end of that foundation dad had to shout to me at the other end. And I still cupped a hand around my ear and shouted back "WHAT?" I probably heard him but making someone shout extra is always kind of fun. Don't feel sorry for my dad. He made me this way.

Laying the block and pouring the slab for that barn was our Everest. In fact, I had a twin sister when we started and she didn't survive the ordeal. It was bad. Halfway through laying the block, our hands dried out and cracked within our gloves, our backs screaming with every movement, we swore we would never lay block again. I think we'd sooner go the way of teepee and yurt than ever lay block again. We could have walked across the Mojave faster than we laid that block. And the foundation! I am almost speechless as I recall. If you ask my dad about that barn, he will tell you the story of the day he almost killed his youngest child. In short, Doc and I learned our lesson: Leave concrete work to professionals. Sure, we can do it. That doesn't mean we should.

The men who came and laid the block for my house made our block laying look like one of those Japanese gameshows in which the contestants are blindfolded and dizzy and in a vat of Jell-o while trying to complete a simple task only we were neither blindfolded nor dizzy and the only Jell-O present was my biceps after lifting approximately 3 million blocks, 2 at a time, weighing about 30 pounds each. The work crew arrived in the morning, walled in what will be my house slab as though they were building with Legos and were gone by lunch.

There's still a lot to be done but having something as concrete as...well...concrete has made everything begin to seem real. It's nothing really beautiful to look at but it's a couple more steps done. And no one had to almost die to get them done. Not this time, anyway.

Here is the finished (unfinished) product:

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